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Almost lost my life

I know that all of you are super eager to hear about the collective bargaining outcome, and honestly, I'm excited to get the contract finalized and signed. I wanted to take a moment to share a story from not that long ago.


Back in February, I was having a difficult time with shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, constantly tired, coughing, and just unable to really feel right. I was uncomfortable with my stomach seemingly larger than normal. I went to urgent care down the street from my house and explained my symptoms. They did all the basics and decided to run an ekg. When the doctor came back in the room, to my surprise, he informed me that he was going to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital. In my cynicism I scoffed at this and said "what are you talking about?" He proceeded to tell me that my resting heart rate was around 170/180 beats per minute. That got my attention, but I still decided, "no I'm fine to drive myself to the hospital." He made me sign a waiver informing me that I could die and I accept this risk. I thought that was just excessive, but "I'm fine, I'm fine..."


So I drive home and have my wife drive me to the hospital. I go to the emergency room where they rush me into a room and have me take my shirt off without even a little foreplay. They start slapping pads all over my chest and start an IV, but all the while I'm still in denial, not thinking this is a big deal. Then I see the screen and my heart rate is bouncing all over the place from 160 up past 200 beats per minute. There is no normal sinus rhythm, it looks like a lie detector needle when some one is completely full of shit. So eventually the ER staff get my heart rate to come down to 100/115 area and send me home, with the instructions to get into a cardiologist asap.


Later that day, I get a call asking when I would like to schedule my Cardiology appt. I find out that the earliest appointment they had was May(2 and a half months later). I politely explain, that will not work, where else can I get an appointment. They find a doctor who had an appointment the next day. So I head into the doctor and with my mom ready to go to the airport after my appointment, I proceed to find out that my heart rate was again around 170 just sitting there. The Cardiologist tells me that with my A-fib and heart rate, he was going to admit me. After doing an echocardiogram, they tell me that my squeeze function is not optimal. I found out a few days later that it was only pumping out 4% of the blood that was pumping into my heart. Wait a minute, what does that mean? Any lower and you would likely have a cardiac emergency or death. Well that's fantastic, I'm thinking any minute they're going to figure this out and it turns out that I was close to not leaving the hospital on my feet, ever.


The first time a doctor tells you that you have congenital heart failure, it really takes you down a peg. I cannot describe what goes through your mind, but I'll try. I'm 44 years old, I have two special sons that need me, a wife I'm not ready to widow, I have way too much left to do in life.... this can't be the end of the line for me. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK??? Well I'll tell you, I'm not invincible, I cannot drink abusively, I should have quit tobacco sooner, I should have taken care of myself, exercise, diet, stress, PTSD, etc... When you're laying in the Cardiac ICU, you have seconds that feel like minutes to think through all of these things, but you never know if your clock is going to run out at any moment.


So they did a procedure on my heart where they burned scar tissue into one of the chambers in order to keep my heart in a regular rhythm. They gave me lasiks or water meds to get rid of all of the excess water my body was holding onto. I pissed so much that I lost 18 pounds in less than two days. Long story short, it was time for some change, permanent change.


6 days later I got out of the hospital. No more booze, low sodium/low fat diet, exercise with caution, and limit stress. I now take 4 pills in the morning and 5 at night. The combination of medications keeps my heart rate in a normal rhythm and from racing. They also keep my blood thin, to avoid stroke. Last but not least, they help improve my squeeze function. I will be a heart failure patient for the rest of my life, most likely with medication to help keep me in the best situation possible. While my recovery has been very positive, my squeeze function is back into the normal range at 55.5% as of a couple weeks ago. 50-70% is normal.


Why am I sharing this now? I hope to save someone else from a similar nightmare. We work in a field that consistently leads to alcohol abuse, heart disease, PTSD, and diabetes. Let my experience be a lesson to all of you. Heart disease does not discriminate, it will not hesitate to attack you. Regardless of age, fitness level, or family history, we are all mortal. Brothers and Sisters, please address your diet, your alcohol and tobacco consumption, and mental health.


"Everyone has a plan til they get punched in the face!" -Mike Tyson. Take it from me, Father Time is undefeated, we all lose to him eventually. Don't give him any unnecessary advantages. Take care of yourselves and your families. Be safe.


Paul Lunkwitz

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Thank you for sharing your story.

Gilla

I never knew that about you. It is definitely a scary experience to go through what you did. I’m glad you are taking it in stride and are making positive choices for a healthier lifestyle. Our jobs definitely demand a lot from our physical and mental health. We often shrug it off as nothing because we think we are invincible or don’t want to appear weak. We take care of our families and others to the best of our ability that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. Good health cannot be bargained, traded, or bought. Time is priceless; we get one life and we have to make the best of it.

Gilla
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